It came as no surprise that the Browns parted ways with Jamal Lewis and Donte Stallorth in recent weeks. What is a surprise is why it took them so long with Lewis.
Of course, they didn’t let the ink dry on Stallworth’s re-instatement by the NFL beefore they let him go.
Both players have stories that tie in with the former Browns—the Ravens.
A year ago at this time, Eric Mangini and his staff decided to pay Lewis nearly $4 million in bonuses to keep him. Even though Mangini was just recently hired by the Browns, I questioned his judgment of assessing talent on the matter.
Clearly, Lewis has had a tremendous career and Mangini might’ve been recalling memories of seeing Lewis run all over his Jets in 2007 to insure a win. He also might have remembered seeing Lewis run all over the Browns while playing for the Ravens, including his 295-yard day. Lewis did have a great year in 2007.
However, anyone who watched the 2008 season could see that Lewis clearly wasn’t the player he once was. Whether it was mounting injuries over the years or just losing a step, it was time for a rebuilding Browns team to move on.
Ironically, if Lewis were to make it to Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday, it would be in large part to his production against the Browns. In one season, Lewis had 500 yards against the Browns in just two games.
However, even if Mangini was given a pass on keeping Lewis heading to the 2009 season, he should’ve kept him on the bench after he returned from his early season injury when Jerome Harrison proved he could play regularly, after rushing for 121 yards on 29 carries against the Bengals.
Instead, Mangini went right back to Lewis when he was cleared to play. We all know that Harrison was relegated to the bench and was even inactive after that. He finally had NFL breakout days at the end of the season, including the 286 yard game against the Chiefs. By keeping Lewis on the field, it hindered Harrison’s development.
Whether Harrison was (or is) going to be the long-term answer for the Browns was the primary issue. The question as to whether Harrison could be the primary back had to be answered. He made a strong case in the final games, but a more comprehensive assessment would’ve been made had he played the whole season.
Another issue that perplexed me many of us was when Lewis spoke his mind in the locker room this past season and seemed to be throwing the coaching staff under the bus. Instead of keeping Lewis on the bench or letting him go, Mangini inserted him back into the lineup.
Mangini didn’t or doesn’t seem to have the same tolerance with other players. When Lewis said this was his last season that was another tell-tale sign that it was time to find out if Harrison, Chris Jennings or someone else was the long-term answer.
I find it interesting that now Lewis is talking about playing again. He surely has the right to pick up another million or so if someone is willing to give it to him, but with his history of concussion symptoms it would seem that retirement might be the better answer.
Congratulations to Jamal on a fine NFL career that included rushing for over 10,000 yards and winning a Super Bowl.
However, his career with the Browns should’ve been over after the 2008 season.
I found it a little surprising that Donte Stallworth was able to find work so quickly after his re-instatement to the NFL, but particularly that he was signed by the Ravens.
I was going to write before he was signed that a member of the Ravens’ front office told me during the 2008 season that one of the reasons the Ravens passed on him in free agency that year was because he wouldn’t play if he didn’t feel he was totally 100 percent healthy.
I expected a team to sign Stallworth, but didn’t think it would be the Ravens.
Browns fans remember that during 2008 Stallworth pulled himself from the season opener for tweaking his quad during pre-game warm-ups. He missed games throughout the season for injuries that appeared to be less than serious. Obviously, I’m not privy to injury details, but my opinion was that Stallworth wasn’t a gamer. He caught just 17 passes as a member of the Browns—hardly worthy of his seven-year $35 million dollar contract he originally signed with the Browns.
If Phil Savage would’ve asked me my opinion of Stallworth prior to him signing in free agency, I could’ve helped him as I had first-hand experience on Stallworth. I had him on my fantasy football team while he played for the Saints and he was always on the injured list. Fool me once, but not twice.
Ozzie Newsome has obviously been tremendous for the Ravens and he must be convinced that Stallworth is a different man than the one who was driving drunk and killed a man a year ago. Signing him to a one year-contract with many incentives is not much of a risk for the Ravens.
Stallworth is hungry to get the incident behind him and probably hungrier to resume his NFL career, fearing that it might be over.
However, with that being said, something rubs me the wrong way that a guy can be involved in killing someone, serve less than a month in jail and then have the opportunity to make millions of dollars once again.
Just ask Ray Lewis or Donte Stallworth.
What a country!